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A question on the Personal History Statement for UC Berkeley

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The following is the prompt of Personal History Statement of UC Berkeley:

Please describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. In this section, you may also include any relevant information on the following:

  • How you have overcome barriers to access higher education
  • How you have come to understand the barriers faced by others
  • Your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education
  • Your research focusing on under served populations or related issues of inequality
  • Your leadership among such groups


I think that the prompt wants me to write a statement on why I choose to go to graduate school based on my personal experience. But, how overcoming obstacles to accept education helps to explain the motivation for grad study? I really hope someone can explain this a little bit. Thanks a lot.

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I think the "overcoming barriers to access higher education" part is in order for you to show your commitment to your studies. In that sense, it would be exemplifying your motivation for study in general, including graduate study. I know friends who mention how they had to work part-time to finance their studies, or defied stereotypes and stigma in their area of work or social context, or handled physical disability or severe anxiety. I've been fortunate enough to not have had to deal with things like these myself, but we all overcome challenges along the way: in my own Personal History Statement, I talk about how I've had to make DIY lab equipment due to lack of research budget, for example. The point, I think, is to show that you're committed to your goals and will continue to be so in grad school.

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